I’m soaking up the sun, my burgeoning bump floating in the water in front of me. Nearby, there’s the odd squeal of delight from my four year old, as she splashes around in the pool’s shallows with my other half. The parrot-like squawks don’t illicit as much as a shrug from the surrounding sun loungers, all of which are family-sized with sun diffused through giant white shades, and dotted throughout with contented parents lolling around with small children. Welcome to Almyra – the holy grail of family (and dare I say, baby) friendly hotels, where five star sophistication meets everyday practicality, to wonderful and relaxing effect.
There are many dramatic lifestyle changes wrought by parenthood. If you are reading this, chances have it that you are well-acquainted with at least some – sleep-filled nights, lazy Sunday lunches, and uninterrupted visits to the loo spring wistfully to mind. One that has a tendency to sneak up on you, is booking holidays. Where once you might have galloped across the globe without a care in the world, even a visit to the shops with a newborn feels like a wild trip in to the unknown, never mind taking an actual flight. Still, the first months with your baby will be eventful and exhausting in equal measure, and do you know what you will soon need? A break. And preferably somewhere sunny.
Small children are slaves to routine and any holiday (even one in Ireland) is going to interrupt this routine to a greater or lesser degree. This in mind, there are two fundamentals to booking a successful family-friendly break – direct flights and a great hotel. With a bit of preparation, taking one flight with a small child is entirely manageable, taking two in quick succession is insane (believe me, I tried it, and it definitely ended in tears). And once you arrive, your hotel will become the centre of your universe. You will want it to be a comfortable, relatively quiet sanctuary (screeching kids is fine, drum and bass at 3am not quite so much) with plenty of great food and family-friendly facilities (and staff) on hand. Basically, if venturing out of the resort happens, great, but if it doesn’t, so be it.
And so back to Almyra, a baby-friendly bolthole in the ancient port of Paphos, a bustling fishing town on the west coast of Cyprus steeped in mythology and the legendary birthplace of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. The western reaches of Cyprus are amongst the least developed parts of the island, and all the better for it; a quiet, rosemary-scented nook of the Med, dotted with olive groves, banana plantations, and not a few ancient ruins.
The Almyra itself is everything I love in a boutique hotel, most of which is rarely associated with the average family break; chic, sophisticated and effortlessly laid-back. It is nestled amidst landscaped tropical gardens with sweeping views across the Med, and a mere five-minute stroll along the harbour, in to Paphos town. We stepped in to the lobby to be greeted with cool flannels for our traveller-soiled brows, bowls of walnuts soaked in scented honey, and those magnificent azure views framed by huge floor to ceiling windows. But the most disorienting aspect of our arrival was the emphatic, warm welcome. It feels genuinely disorienting for such a hip hideaway to be so invested in families and yet they are. Every aspect of The Almyra experience can and does cater for small children.
Before you even step in the door, their Baby Go Lightly service will take the stress out of packing – you can book all manner of baby gear big and small to be in your room on arrival, from nappies and wipes to cots, buggies, sterilisers and plenty more. On arrival, the Kiddie Concierge will do their level best to tailor make the best holiday for your family, from booking tables in restaurants to organising age-appropriate excursions. That is if you want to leave the resort – you may genuinely find it tough dragging yourself away. Aside from lolling beside one of the four pools (including the glorious adult-only spa infinity-pool for those who manage to take full advantage of the kids clubs for an hour or two), there are lawned grounds for sunbathing, a small beach to swim, and a fabulous spa for much-needed relaxation. Take advantage of all of these facilities with the kids, or enjoy a little time out by booking one of the age-specific kids’ clubs or adventure outposts, which cater for kids from four months to teens.
And then there is the food. I’m sure there are plenty of wonderful restaurants in Paphos but to be honest, the dining at Almyra was so good, we only ventured out a couple of times. We kicked off every day with plates piled high with more of those honey-soaked nuts, melon, Greek yoghurt and pancakes. All served al fresco through the sun-dappled branches of olive trees under the watchful eye of the hotel’s greatest attraction (for four year olds anyway), Philippe the freewheeling house parrot. For lunch and dinner, you can try Asian-Med cuisine on chilled out, low-cushioned benches, Cypriot mezes at lamp lit tables on the seafront, or pop to Mosaics for a buffet like no other, for more piling of plates, including from the incredible kids’ menus.
After all that, we retired every night to the restful oasis of our Kyma suite – with more space and privacy than a standard room, these have their own patio, outdoor day beds and private roof terraces and are located right on the seafront. Who needs white noise machines when you have the restful singsong of gently lapping waves to lull you and yours to sleep?
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